23 Best Books For Learning To Write Fiction

The best way to learn how to write fiction is to read a lot of fiction. I hear this advice over and over again, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Sometimes, though, when you’re after a bit of extra guidance, it can be helpful to have some explicit advice on hand.

Though there can be some alarming and even strange advice out there (write every day or you are destined to fail! Always write your first draft by hand!), I’m yet to find a single book on writing from which I haven’t gained a nugget of inspiration.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the choice out there in the wide world of writing about writing, the following list focusses on some of the best books I have come across on how to write fiction, particularly if you’re just beginning.

As most of my creative writing life occurred in Australia, there’s some bias towards Australian authors and editors, though you’ll also see familiar international names and texts in the mix.

The books I’ve chosen include a range of:

The books are not ranked in terms of quality. Instead, I’ve loosely arranged them in categories ranging from inspiration through to learning to write and perhaps build a novel, then pursuing a writing career.

In saying that, there’s a lot of overlap in these books, and every single one of them is relevant if you’re just starting your writing journey.

Here, in my humble opinion, are the best books for learning to write fiction.

Book #1: Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury

This book is great for: creative inspiration

Ray Bradbury is a master storyteller, so a book full of essays on writing, which also provides a glimpse into Bradbury’s career, surely can’t hurt in helping you become a better fiction writer yourself.

I find his words inspiring, and a good reminder to pursue creativity and embrace imagination.

“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine,” Bradbury says. “The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

I feel you, buddy. This couldn’t more aptly describe the chaos that is writing. And though terrifying, I also find it exhilarating.

Bradbury makes me feel like learning to write fiction is the single most important and exciting thing a person can do with their life.

This book provides practical tips for:

It’s broken up into different essays, so it’s easy to pick up as and when when you need it.

Bradbury also encourages reading short stories, which is something I didn’t truly embrace until the last five years or so of my writing life so far.

Reading a short story, just like watching a film or reading a novel (because Bradbury encourages those things too – hooray!), can help you get your head around the overarching structure of a narrative.

Image via Pexels

Book #2: Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book is great for: Bringing words and stories to life

As a speculative fiction writer myself, Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favourite authors of all time. I couldn’t possibly compile this list without including the most updated version of her well-known book on writing.

She’s a master of the sound of language, sentence construction and point of view.

Le Guin’s love for writing and story is infectious, and this book will make your stories come alive, helping you maintain the excitement and passion that’s needed when you sit down to do the hard work of writing.

Reading this book makes me want to write. It’s fun and playful, as Le Guin relishes the beauty of words, phrases and narratives.

She stresses the need to think about the rhythm of your sentences to make writing splendid, rather than relying on overly complex vocabulary.

Steering the Craft explores:

  • Pace
  • Rhythm
  • Story structure
  • Characterisation
  • Other staples of narrative writing
  • Advice on working in online and in-person writing groups

It also includes engaging practical exercises, with plenty of options if one particular exercise doesn’t float your writing boat.

Book #3: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This book is great for: When you’re worried your ideas aren’t original enough

One of the ways I became really comfortable with exploring my creativity in writing, and developing character backstories, was through writing fan fiction – using elements from some of my favourite writers’ works.

Having permission to draw inspiration from the world around me is what drew me to Kleon’s book on writing.

Kleon isn’t advocating for plagiarism. But he also doesn’t get hung up on ideas needing to be perfectly original.

Instead, he concentrates on helping you harness your creativity, trust your creative instincts, and use the world around you as inspiration, providing you with plenty of creative advice and exercises.

Learning to write is not about creating an entirely unique plot (Christopher Booker reckons there are only seven basic plots in the world, anyway!).

It’s about creating fresh perspectives and exciting twists, and following new paths and ideas on what is ultimately a road that’s been walked before.

Kleon’s book really helps you remember this, while encouraging you to get inspired by what’s around you.

Importantly for new writers, Kleon also provides hot tips that he wishes he had received when he was starting out.

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Book #4: The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville

This book is great for: Practical examples and exercises on writing

Kate Grenville’s book encourages the use of intuition and instinct to help you practise writing in a structured way.

Grenville suggests starting with what you already have in your life-experience arsenal, and building from there, rather than trying to be someone else or mimic their writing style.

Whether you’re just learning to write fiction, or perhaps rewriting something that needs more work, the aim of this book is to help you uncover what it is you want to say and express it in the most powerful way possible.

Chapter 1 addresses ‘pen paralysis’ to help you get words on the page, then Chapter 2 builds on these words. The bulk of the book works at exploring and refining this material, then focussing more clearly on the main thrust of your story.

The final chapter briefly presents guidelines for submitting your work to a publisher.

There are several pages of exercises in each chapter, and examples that compliment them.

The exercises build on each other, from a simple straightforward activity that gets words on the page, through to progressions and modifications that enhance those words until you have material for a short story or novel.

If you complete all of the exercises in this book, you’ll be guaranteed to have lots of writing material to work with.

Personally, I loved getting a taste of a wide variety of writing styles in the excerpts from professional Australian writers’ stories and novels.

Book #5: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

This book is great for: Learning the laws of English grammar

William Strunk was E. B. White’s English professor in 1919, and though this book wouldn’t be published by Macmillan until after Strunk’s death in the late 1950s, it was on White’s list of required textbooks.

So you could say that for the last hundred years, this book has been the Bible of English grammar rules.

I 100% recommend purchasing The Elements of Style for your writing toolkit, mainly because I believe that if you want to break the rules of writing, you have to learn them first.

I don’t suggest strictly following all of Strunk and White’s rules of grammar, because you might start to sound like you’ve sat on a particularly pointy stick.

But (look at me, so rebellious – breaking the ‘Never start a sentence with “but”‘ rule!) as someone who was never formally taught grammar at school, I love this as a reference guide.

I’ve found it helpful for instances when a piece of your own writing isn’t working, but you’re not sure why.

It might be that you always trip up reading back over a particular sentence, or can’t quite pinpoint why your descriptive passages are irking your workshop group.

Often, it’s actually because there’s some kind of grammatical issue going on, and Strunk and White will tell you, in no uncertain terms, how to correct it.

With each rule, they succinctly explain and provide clear examples of proper and improper usage.

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Book #6: The Writing Experiment: strategies for innovative creative writing by Hazel Smith

This book is great for: Experimental writing

Hazel Smith is an Australian creative writing teacher and lecturer, who uses this book to:

  • Theorise the process of writing
  • Champion experimental approaches
  • Describe step-by-step systems to build a bank of creative writing pieces

Smith has a background in music and a love of film and the visual arts, so provides lots of mixed-media exercises.

While the introduction states that this book is designed to supplement enrolment in a creative writing course, it still has easy-to-manage tasks that could be completed on their own.

It’s geared towards explorative, innovative methods of writing, though it could still be used as inspiration for more traditional styles of fiction writing.

If you’re just learning to write fiction, I recommend starting with the first six chapters, which are introductory strategies for writing.

One of my favourite exercises, which I’ve used a few times to create satirical short stories, includes getting two articles on entirely different topics (maybe one on the political climate in your country, and another on collecting tea cosies), and cutting and pasting their paragraphs together to create an entirely new story.

Book #7: The Creative Writing Handbook: Techniques for New Writers, edited by John Singleton and Mary Luckhurst

This book is great for: Creative tasks for writing a huge range of fiction (stage, screen, novels, poetry, you name it!)

This book contains writing advice and chapters from prominent creative writing teachers.

The contributors specialise in many different forms of writing, including plays, short stories, children’s novels, textbooks, poetry, travel and feature articles, radio plays, television, and mixed media essays.

There are also hundreds of book and author recommendations, so this book is a great springboard for further research.

The Creative Writing Handbook follows principles that many more formal writing programs and university programs follow, so if you’re interested in pursuing writing in a more formal context, this book will give you a taste.

The chapters take you through stages of the writing process, from acquiring basic skills, finding ideas and developing them, to different forms and genres, to final revisions and edits.

It includes structured workshop tasks, some of them very nitty-gritty (cut bizarre words from magazines, jumble them in an envelope and rearrange them to create dialogue) and some much broader, exploring the overall plot of a short story or novel.

These could also be really useful if you’re creating your own writers’ workshopping group.

I don’t think I’ve gotten through even a tenth of the exercises offered here, so if you’re after inspiration for your next piece, I highly recommend it.

Book #8: The little red writing book by Mark Tredinnick

This book is great for: Writing simple and beautiful sentences and paragraphs

This is one of the first books I was ever gifted when I told my friends and family I wanted to pursue creative writing seriously. I found it inspirational, beautifully written, and incredibly useful.

Tredinnick gives practical, honest, and poignant advice on writing and states his intention to ‘encourage richer and smarter writing’ and ‘do something about bad language and its consequences’.

I often return to this book when my writing feels stagnant and forced

It gives advice on grammar and punctuation, referring to Strunk and White several times, as well as many other masters of the craft, ranging from Aristotle to Ursula Le Guin to Barry Lopez.

It talks about taking care in your writing, and being aware of your writing, yet not self-conscious.

This is the sort of book that allows you to open any page at random and find the perfect quote on writing. One of my favourite sections is where Tredinnick explains that no one has ever sounded clever from trying very hard to sound clever. 

While it contains a lot of advice, taking one or two tips on board, or doing the ‘Try This’ exercises that end each section, will help when you’re only just learning to write fiction.

Book #9: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

This book is great for: Showing, not telling, how your characters are feeling

The reader’s emotional connection with the characters in your writing arguably hinges on your ability to express your characters’ emotions effectively.

Ackerman and Puglisi address this in a simple and effective list of different ways to show how your character is feeling, rather than outright saying it.

The book is organised into 75 different emotions, listing examples of body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses that a person might have if they are feeling a particular way.

The emotions list is a simple, easy-to-follow format, but the book also addresses other problems related to expressing your characters’ feelings effectively for the reader.

It provides a quick reference list to assist you when you’re trying to avoid your go-to expressions, but you don’t want to ruin the flow of your writing.

For me, overused expressions are situated around the eyebrows: one too many furrowed brows, or eyebrow raises.

For Allison Tait, a well-known Australian children’s author, it’s frowning. “My characters love to frown… Seriously, the worries of the world rest upon the shoulders of this lot.”

Even if you don’t end up using the exact emotion-depicting examples this book provides, it will certainly help you brainstorm some different, creative ways to express your characters’ feelings.

Image via Unsplash

Book #10: Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Writing a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell

This book is great for: Plotting your novel

‘Keep writing. Get to the end. Don’t allow yourself to abandon the project. You must finish what you write. But what, you ask, if I have a chaotic mess at the end? Celebrate. This is the way it usually is, even for veteran novelists.’

Other than this great little pep talk, James Scott Bell has also written the foreword for the next book on this list, amongst a squillion other books on writing and his own fiction (mostly thrillers).

Plot and Structure uses specific examples to demonstrate key points about:

Bell offers up various tools to overcome plot problems, including how to create a plotting diagram. If you’re a visual learner like me, you’ll probably find this helpful.

The tone of the writing is light and entertaining, making it an easy and rewarding read.

Book #11: Crafting Novels and Short Stories by the editors of Writer’s Digest

This book is great for: Characters, plot, POV, setting, dialogue, revision… everything!

‘There is nothing so instructive in any endeavour of life as having an experienced hand give you the benefit of his wisdom,’ James Scott Bell says in the foreword of this book.

‘It’s like having that seasoned professional sit down with you and tell you things you could only learn on your own after lots of trial and error, if you learn them at all.’

That’s precisely what this book is, in as readable and easily digestable a format as the original Writer’s Digests. When I first bought it, I read the entire thing in one sitting.

The book focusses on strong storytelling, compiling tips from many famous and influential writers, including some whose books have made it on to this list.

It covers:

  • Characterisation
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Point of view
  • Setting
  • Backstory
  • Dialogue
  • Description
  • Revision

It’s also interspersed with sections titled ‘Focus on the Writing Life’, which will help you to consider not just learning to write fiction, but actually becoming a serious, ultimately professional writer.

If you’re having trouble getting started with your writing, you’re in luck: the book opens with a section to which all of the editors contributed, titled ‘Get off your butt and write’.

Image via Startup Stock Photos

Book #12: A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

This book is great for: Writing examples

This book acknowledges how much hard work is involved in writing, beginning with ‘Getting Started’ and moving through setting, character, plot, structure, point of view, voice, and revision.

Hodgins includes lots of inspiring quotes from other writers, which explain the importance of each of these elements to the overall development of narratives.

At the end of each chapter, once you’ve covered the basics of that particular element of writing, Hodgins provides a range of practical exercises, to which you can apply your newfound knowledge.

Hodgins also recommends other books; for example, at the end of his chapter on structure, he lists short stories and novels that are of particular of interest for their structure.

This is a well-organised and researched book, and if you were to follow it from cover to cover, it’d be like doing an entire creative writing course, just without the feedback!

Book #13: Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland

This book is great for: You guessed it – structuring your novel

When I first started writing a novel, I had lots of ideas, filled books with brainstorming, and wrote many different snippets from many different perspectives – leaving many plot holes and gaps in my writing.

When it came time to piecing it altogether, I was stuck. Luckily, getting stuck led me to this book.

K. M. Weiland, a writer herself, is extremely good at breaking down story structure and explaining why you should care about your story structure in the first place.

This book is geared towards writing fiction that you plan on commercially publishing.

Weiland’s How to Outline Your Novel is a helpful companion to this book, as is her Structuring Your Novel Workbook, which leaves space for you to complete the novel-structuring exercises detailed in this book.

While I don’t think you need to treat this book as gospel, it certainly helped me to remove unnecessary scenes and home in on my characters’ motivations when beginning my first novel.

It follows a logical, simple structure, from the hook and beginning of your book to the first, second and third acts, with extra points on the climax, resolution and ending.

The second half of the book covers scene structure, with a short section on sentence structure at the end.

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Book #14: How Fiction Works by James Wood

This book is great for: A critical understanding of dominant English literature

James Wood is a Harvard literary critic, which is apparent as soon as you open this book, full of interesting literary criticism.

It explores the power of language – inventive language in particular – to bring the real world to life on the page. It’s kind of like a more current version of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. 

How Fiction Works closely and critically analyses some of the most famous writing and authors, ranging from the Bible and Shakespeare to Joyce, Nabokov, Austen and Camus.

If you want to brush up on your English literature in a way that will help you consider characterisation, setting, description and plot in your own writing, this book is a great choice.

Wood undergoes a technical and careful examination of character, narrative and style in a range of acclaimed fictional works.

It’s not a particularly easy book to dip in and out of, so I’d recommend reading it cover to cover to get the most out of it.

While it doesn’t provide practical exercises, it fights for the power of character to teach us about other people, their points of view and their lived experiences.

In saying that, it’s worth noting that Wood sticks to what he knows best, mainly providing a well-rounded context for the dominant history of literature in the English-speaking world.

Book #15: Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron

This book is great for: Writing strong and motivated characters

Cron really appeals to my more self-indulgent side by drawing on neuroscience to help explain our understanding of story structure. Who doesn’t love learning about how their brain works?

Providing readers with a blueprint for writing a novel, this book is a great way to introduce some structure to your creative work.

While this makes it sound like it’s plot-focussed, if anything, Cron is trying to prove that a story is, and always will be, character-driven.

How does your character respond to the elements of plot, and how do their actions change them? This is at the core of Story Genius, and is solid advice for those of us learning to write fiction.

The exercises included will help you to build your characters and their motivations, and home in on the reasons you’re writing a particular story.

I’ve found myself turning back to this book whenever I need to refine my character goals and overall story goal.

Cron illustrates her points with one of her students’ works in progress, giving you a real-world example as she teaches you to come up with an idea, outline the novel and build from there.

Image via Lum3n.com

Book #16: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

This book is great for: Writing your second draft and writing dialogue

This book is hands-down one of my favourites to reference when editing my writing.

It’s been recommended by almost every creative writing teacher and writer I’ve ever met, and it has turned many average first drafts into above-average second drafts. It also helped me get my first short story published.

Browne and King are both professional editors, with hundreds of published books between them, from which they draw lots of examples to guide you.

This book teaches you the same processes they go through to perfect a manuscript or short story. There are chapters on exposition, interior monologue, point of view, dialogue, and more.

Browne and King’s tips on dialogue are my personal favourites. They explain how you should never mask the beats in a scene with dialogue (i.e. destroy the scene’s tension) by overusing dialogue tags or adverbs.

They emphasise that dialogue shouldn’t be too formal (unless your character is pompous), and should sound natural when you read it aloud.

Every chapter contains practical exercises so you can apply the techniques you’ve learned to your own writing, and there are also great little illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist George Booth to keep you engaged.

Book #17: Making Stories: How Ten Australian Novels Were Made by Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe

This book is great for: Seeing how other writers build stories, draft, and revise

This book gives you permission to write in whatever way suits you.

It reminds you that there’s no single correct way to write, and that there’s not even a logical, step-by-step process to drafting, no matter how much we wish there were.

There are ways you can help yourself, and particular structures that work for different writers, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer about how to write fiction. In some ways, I find that deeply reassuring.

Grenville and Woolfe compile the works of, and interviews with, ten prominent Australian writers, focussing on how they developed their work in its earliest stages.

Making Stories includes photocopies of handwritten notes, extracts from manuscript drafts, margin notes, and interviews with the authors to delve deeper into their processes.

Jessica Anderson’s notes on The Commandant offer a glimpse into how much research goes into a historical novel. Peter Carey talks about a process he calls ‘cantilevering’, where he whirls obsessively towards what he wants to write about.

Helen Garner carries a notebook everywhere, and David Ireland writes snippets on tiny notecards. Elizabeth Jolley worked on one novel over twenty years, in various forms.

Thomas Kenneally writes a lot, but spends ages on a first draft. Finola Moorhead’s Remember the Tarantella began as diagrams. We even get a glimpse into the workings of the elusive Patrick White’s.

This book is also a good lesson in killing your darlings. It shows plenty of interesting, engaging notes from writers early in the writing process, which were eventually abandoned in service to the greater story.

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Book #18: On Writing: a memoir of the craft by Stephen King

This book is great for: Practical, ‘no BS’ advice from a famous and prolific writer

If you want expert advice on writing, Stephen King is at the top of the hierarchy. (Yeah, I’m punny.)

I love this book so much I actually have two copies. Sure, that’s because my mum accidentally bought it for me twice, but still. It’s a renowned, incredibly helpful book.

In the second foreword (there are three altogether), King says:

‘Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do – not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad.’

With this in mind, he emphasises the need to give straightforward, simple advice, based on experience – something he certainly isn’t lacking.

His advice includes reading lots and writing lots (he is an advocate for writing every day, or only having one day off when you’re a beginner). This will help you naturally build your vocabulary, rather than forcing it.

King also follows some hard and fast rules that are widely accepted, like using active (not passive) verbs, avoiding adverbs and unnecessary dialogue tags, and showing, not telling.

There is a lot of helpful, easily applicable advice in On Writing, including some useful guidelines you can take with a grain of salt, like ‘Write 1,000 words six days per week’, and that your second draft should be your first, minus ten percent.

But even putting this aside, it’s an interesting and incredible memoir of the craft, and of Stephen King’s life.

Book #19: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This book is great for: Quelling perfectionism and getting excited about writing

It’s very hard for me to get to the end of Bird by Bird, namely because I just want to write down everything Lamott says.

‘Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation,’ she muses. ‘They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.’

With a lovely family story behind the title, Lamott uses her wordsmith wisdom and wit to give you a step-by-step guide on writing and managing the writer’s life.

I’ve found this book especially good for getting me past the fear of a terrible, poorly written first draft, and for stopping me from going back to revise before I’ve even finished.

Like King’s On Writing, Lamott fuses writing advice with memoir, which makes this a particularly interesting read.

Lamott also reminds you that if you’re interested in learning to write fiction, it’s probably because you find reading and writing enjoyable, and to embrace that feeling.

It’s a good reminder that the purpose of writing doesn’t have to chiefly be ‘to get published’. The process of writing can be lots of fun, and satisfying in and of itself.

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Book #20: How to be a Writer: who smashes deadlines, crushes editors and lives in a solid gold hovercraft by John Birmingham

This book is great for: Tips on writing as money-making

With a healthy does of hilarity and self-deprecation (despite his wide-reaching literary and commercial success), Birmingham explains upfront that this book is more about how to be a writer than how to write.

Still, when you’re learning to write fiction, it’s often nice to get a sense of what it would be like to do it as a career.

Birmingham really focusses on making money from your writing. He acknowledges: ‘Artistic integrity is good, but coin is better. You can’t eat artistic integrity.’

It may be considered controversial, but I really appreciate the practicality of this advice. This book helps to teach you to treat writing as a business.

While not all of his advice is geared towards writing fiction (he also covers freelancing, interviewing, and writing feature articles or newspaper columns), he also gives some advice on how to wrestle a novel into shape.

Again, it’s hilarious, and also not for the faint-hearted. There are swears, and jibes, and tangents, but all in the name of practical guidance.

For example, Birmingham suggests writing an outline before you begin to increase your chances of writing more words in one day, or doing just as much research, note-taking and preparation for a fiction novel as for a non-fiction work.

How to be a Writer is a fun, no-holds-barred book full of genuine advice, which doesn’t need to be followed to a tee, but could certainly help you to make money from your fiction writing.

Book #21: The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

This book is great for: How to navigate social media, blogging and crowdfunding

Somewhere along my pursuit of a writing career path, I stumbled across Chuck Wendig’s blog. What an absolute ice-cream-sandwich-that’s-dripping-down-your-fingers kind of treat.

After laughing out loud at much of his advice, I thought it only fair that I should purchase some content from him, too.

Wendig’s book is equally hilarious, and I will never get sick of the energetic, sassy, silly yet empathetic and intelligent way he dishes out advice. See below for a prime example:

‘Writing is the act of creation. Put words on a page, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, paragraphs to seven-book epic fantasy cycles with books so heavy you could choke a hippo. But don’t give writing too much power, either. A wizard controls his magic; it doesn’t control him.’

Explaining everything from how to build suspense and write dialogue, to what a query letter is and how to find your perfect fan base, Wendig offers a useful combination of advice on both how to write and how to become a writer.

As an extremely successful blogger, he provides techniques on blogging effectively, building social media skills, and crowdfunding.

But if you’re not yet ready for this kind of stuff, his advice on building character and writing metaphors is equally excellent.

Image via jeshoots.com

Book #22: 78 reasons why your book may never be published and 14 reasons why it just might by Pat Walsh

This book is great for: A humorous reality check from a publishing industry insider

Pat Walsh is an editor with ample industry experience, which makes his advice extremely relevant and realistic. Tongue in cheek, he structures his book around mistakes aspiring authors frequently make.

Despite the slightly depressing title, Walsh finishes the book on a hopeful note, with a clear outline of the best ways to increase your chances of being published while having fun and being proud of your achievements along the way.

This book is useful when your writing schedule and expectations are going off track. It’s a reminder not to quit your day job, to finish the book you’re trying to write, and to take yourself and your writing seriously while also being realistic.

It has plenty of tips on how to stay out of the slush pile once you’re ready to submit to publishers, how to approach literary agents, and the potential pitfalls of self-publishing.

My favourite part is the first section, which suggests that the main reason your book may never be published is simply that you haven’t written it.

It’s a good reminder that yes, it’s okay to do research, think about the industry, brainstorm character backstories, and draw maps of magical worlds…

But at the end of the day, the best way to learn how to write fiction is to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and actually write.

Book #23: The Australian Writer’s Marketplace: every contact you will ever need to succeed in the writing business by Queensland Writers’ Centre

This book is great for: Australian writers who are ready to put their work out there

The second you think you’re ready to start sending your writing out into the world, get your mitts on this book, or perhaps grab yourself an online subscription.

At the moment, the QWC is spending some time updating the online database, but once it’s refreshed, I can imagine it’ll be better than ever.

It’s really not joking when it claims to list every contact you’ll ever need to succeed in the writing business. It’s a chunky book, with contact details (phone numbers, addresses, emails, websites, names) for all kinds of people and publications.

It details the frequency of publications, target readerships and submission information, as well as giving tips and general information.

The key sections cover magazines and journals, newspapers, publishers, agents, commercial services, industry organisations, script markets, literary awards, competitions, fellowships and grants, and literary courses and events.

This book could not possibly be more practical. If you’re old enough to know what I mean, it’s the Yellow Pages for writing in Australia. If not, it’s… uhhh… the magic Aussie writers’ Google.


So what now? Now, you read. You read and you write and you read and write some more.

I suggest starting with maybe three books from this list and using them to help you get words on the page. Those with creative exercises to follow are great for this.

Then perhaps pick one of the more memoir-esque books for inspiration along the way. If you start to feel stuck and in need of some more advice, try another three!

I genuinely don’t feel that any of my time has been wasted on researching the craft of writing (except when I’m using it to procrastinate from the actual task of writing).

In Stephen King’s wise words: ‘Writing is magic. As much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.’

Samantha Todd

Samantha is a writer based in Sydney, Australia. Despite habitually exceeding the word limit throughout her academic life, she has collected a few degrees; most recently, her M.A. in Creative Writing at UTS. She recently gave up teaching high school English to coach and manage an aerial silk studio, because ‘joining the circus’ felt more in tune with her childhood dreams. She is currently freelancing while working on a climate fiction fantasy novel for young adults, and preferred it when her writing was classified as dystopian escapism rather than current affairs.

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